Saturday, January 29, 2011
Most early Western cultures relied primarily on candles rendered from animal fat (tallow). A major improvement came in the Middle Ages, when beeswax candles were introduced in Europe. Unlike animal-based tallow, beeswax burned pure and cleanly, without producing a smoky flame. It also emitted a pleasant sweet smell rather than the foul, acrid odor of tallow. Beeswax candles were widely used for church ceremonies, but because they were expensive, few individuals other than the wealthy could afford to burn them in the home.
Tallow candles were the common household candle for Europeans, and by the 13th century, candlemaking had become a guild craft in England and France. The candlemakers (chandlers) went from house to house making candles from the kitchen fats saved for that purpose, or made and sold their own candles from small candle shops.